One stop Digital platform for Trade, Logistics Chain Stakeholders
MUMBAI: Portall, a logistics management application, has gone live seeking to address the needs of exporters, importers and other stakeholders in the logistics chain for documentation requirements in a secure and fast way through a one-stop consolidated digital solution.
The development comes at a time when the Indian Ports Association (IPA), an agency functioning under the Shipping Ministry, is entrusted with the task of building an integrated IT platform dubbed port community system (PCS) 2.0 to link various stakeholders in the maritime logistics chain to reduce paperwork, cut costs and enable ease of doing business.
Portall is termed as a “revolutionary tool” by its developer, Mumbai-based JM Baxi Group, because of its potential to benefit exporters and importers, Customs House Agents, Shipping Lines, Terminal Operators, Container Freight Stations, Inland Container Depots, Transporters, Warehouses and Container train operators by offering a quick and easy way to enter the digital age.
India’s trade and logistics service providers have been grappling with multiple coordination points like Customs, shipping lines, CFSs, ICDs, port terminals, stamp duty payments and dealing with multiple documentation involved at these locations.
Payments by DD/ cheque/ cash etc., often delay cargo clearance process. Absence of live updates and shipment delivery problems during holidays add to the woes.
Portall could well be the one-stop digital platform that stakeholders in the export-import trade and inland logistics have been waiting for long to enable Ease of Doing Business, say trade sources.
The central theme of Portall is to enable customers have complete transparency and trust of the entire export/import processes with real time updates, status tracking, alerts and notifications by providing a single interface. A dashboard allows users to check respective shipment status and to plan further activities and a payment gateway will assist users to make online payments with options like net banking, UPI, credit card etc.
The Government has been running a so-called port community system or PCS from 2007. “But, it is a very basic system,” says Capt. Deepak Tewari, Chairman, Container Shipping Lines Association. “All it does is, shipping companies feed in the vessels details on the system, the system transfers those vessel details to the terminal, the terminal gives permission to enter through the system. That’s it. Currently, that is the system operating on the ground,” he noted.
In India, attempts so far at automation of trade logistics business processes at ports had taken a silo approach rather than an integrated one.
As a result, it hardly made any impact on the export-import trade logistics processes.
The maritime industry is favouring a pan-India PCS which is not restricted to the 12 Major Ports run by the Centre in its scope, as in the present case. It is obvious that lack of automation has started to bite all the stakeholders in the industry be it port /terminal operators, shipping lines, cargo owners, cargo consolidators, freight forwarders, and shipping agents, say trade officials.
There are some 21 Government Departments involved in the export-import chain. It takes about 8-10 days for completing documentation – 7 for exports and 10 for imports - in India compared with four days in Germany. These agencies have different ways of interpreting procedures leading to litigations that take years to be decided.
“Basically, the first thing that will ease our doing business in India as logistics companies, maritime and shipping companies is digitisation,” CSLA’s Tewari says. “What we need is a very robust cargo community system which entails that all stakeholders, both from the cargo community as well as the Ports, Shipping Lines and Regulators in the logistics chain, all come on to that one platform or system where cargo clearances are done. It will enable paperless transactions without any human inter-face and lead to truthfulness of data,” Tewari pointed out.
The transactions through Portall are encryption-enabled with the patented algorithm, access through secure and encrypted tunnel - a technology used to display on-demand data/content without storing it.
“The industry is looking for digital solutions,” says Mr. Dhruv Kotak, Joint Managing Director at JM Baxi Group, the entity that developed the application. Portall is expected to meet the Government’s initiatives towards digitisation and Ease of Doing Business. It will give a great boost to international trade and exporters and importers.